Longtime Seattle jazz fans no doubt remember the motto of the old Bud’s Jazz Records in Pioneer Square: “Jazz in all its forms.”
That’s the story this week in Seattle, where a wide spectrum of jazz, from ultraviolet to infrared, is on offer. Some folks, of course, would say the improvised abstractions of this weekend’s Racer Sessions festival aren’t really jazz — not to mention the buzz of Kenny G’s smooth jazz, which returns to Jazz Alley on Thursday — but if we adhere to Bud’s more catholic view, there’s a whole lotta jazz in town this week.
The marquee show is the Monterey Jazz Festival 55th Anniversary Celebration On Tour, at Benaroya Hall Tuesday. Grammy and Tony award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater is center stage. Though she has a distinctly tangy personality of her own, Bridgewater specializes in homages to classic jazz singers, her latest subject being the late Billie Holiday.
Saxophonist Chris Potter, whose epic new album, “The Sirens,” is due Jan. 29, is also on the program, as are fiery young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, veteran bassist Christian McBride, pianist Benny Green and drummer Lewis Nash.
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The first tour Monterey sent out in 2008 (to Bellingham) was a delightful round robin of mixes and matches. This should be a satisfying show.
Bassist, composer and band leader Charles Mingus was a titan whose compositions, such as “Fables of Faubus” and “Meditations on Integration” have taken their place in jazz history. Mingus’ widow, Susan, and his former sidemen have kept his music alive through a big band and small group, the latter called Mingus Dynasty.
A quintet edition of Mingus Dynasty performs Wednesday and Thursday at The Triple Door. The band is composed of the irrepressible trombonist and vocalist Frank Lacy, saxophonist Abraham Burton, piano tyro Helen Sung, bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Donald Edwards.
Long before a tragic multiple homicide put the University District’s Cafe Racer on the map in the worst way, fans of experimental music knew this cozy, communal hang as a place where eccentric musicians come together Sundays to forge new ways of making music. The scene is back on track, with “Cry & Roar: A Festival Celebrating Three Years of the Racer Sessions.”
It’s a great gumbo of scruffy, scrape-y and trance-y stuff, including the septet King Tears Bat Trip, which starts where Albert Ayler and John Coltrane left off; ferocious improvising saxophonist Neil Welch’s Sleeper Ensemble; the electronic folk jazz duo Syrinx Effect (Kate Olson, Naomi Segel); Christian Pincock’s Soundpainting, which uses signed gestures to cue the music; the spontaneous improv trio Japanese Guy; the haunting sextet Wand; and the offbeat jazz trio Insistent Caterpillars.
In the improbable event that Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt had lived to be 103, he would be celebrating his birthday Jan. 23. Djangoists gather to pay their respects at Columbia City’s lively Royal Room. Hosting the evening are Touché, featuring Paris native Christophe Chagnard and Neil Andersson, founding member of Seattle’s premier Gypsy jazz band Pearl Django, and Ranger and the Re-Arrangers, with violinist Ranger Sciacca.
Jazz Alley is still Seattle’s mainstay jazz venue, and two well-known acts pass through there this week. Seattle-bred saxophonist Kenny G, whose star has somewhat dimmed since the demise, nationally and locally, of the smooth jazz radio format, appears Thursday through Jan. 27.
The curly-locked sax man had never played the Alley before last year, but according to Seattle Times freelancer Gene Stout, he wowed the sold-out houses and was good-natured about the allergic reaction most mainstream jazz fans have to his crowd-pleasing music.
Kenny G is preceded at the Alley by singer-songwriter and onetime Tacoma resident Rickie Lee Jones, for whom the rhythms and bluesy flow of jazz have been an abiding influence.
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org